2018-19 The Berkshire Eagle All Stars: Girls basketball
Co-Player of the Year
Alie Mendel, Sr., Hoosac Valley
Mendel's season was punctuated by helping her Hurricanes claim a first-ever state championship, and started with her making a full return to athletics after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer last summer. To say that her year was remarkable is an understatement. The talented senior guard, who will head to Westfield State University next year, scored 437 points this season for Hoosac, shooting 33.7 percent from the floor. She added 45 made 3-pointers, and was always a calm and steady presence as Hoosac got back to the top in Western Mass. Division III, before going on to beat St. Mary's of Lynn in the D-III state championship game. She was held to single digits once this season — in the season opener against Lenox — and scored at least 20 points in 16 of her team's 25 games. She also topped the 1,000-point mark for her career, finishing her four years at Hoosac with 1,357 points. Mendel also brought it on the defensive end, whether in the team's vaunted press defenses or in the half-court.
Co-Player of the Year
Gwendolyn Carpenter, Sr., Mount Everett
Berkshire County's all-time leading scorer — male or female — capped off her record-breaking career by scoring 520 points this season, and 2,121 for her career. During the season, Carpenter passed Jen Bennett as the school's all-time leading scorer on Jan. 10 in a game against Wahconah, then broke Lenox's Samantha Herrick's Berkshire County mark by scoring 33 points in the team's Western Mass. Division IV playoff win over Renaissance. Carpenter scored from all over the court, draining 45 3-pointers while also hitting 169 free throws throughout the year. The dynamic point guard didn't just score, though, as she often led her team in assists throughout the course of the season, and she was also a tenacious rebounder and a solid defender on the perimeter. Carpenter got her team back to the Western Mass. championship game for the first time since her freshman year, and while the season ended with a loss to Hopkins Academy in the D-IV championship game, Carpenter's name will now be the one all other hoopers chase as the greatest scorer in Berkshire County history.
Offensive Player of the Year
Lexi Mercier, Hoosac Valley, Senior
To watch Mercier play, was to see a basketball player with no fear of shooting. It seemed that anywhere inside of the half-court line was fair game for Mercier in her senior season, as she and fellow senior captain Alie Mendel helped guide the Hurricanes to their first-ever state championship victory. Mercier knocked down an eye-popping 97 3-pointers during her senior year, shooting 35-percent from long distance, and 40.2 percent overall on 152 made baskets. She finished her senior season with 429 points, and also topped the 1,000-point mark for her career, with 1,182 career points. Mercier is taking her talents to Hudson Valley Community College next season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Victoria Gamberoni, Wahconah, Senior
When Eagle staffers asked various girls basketball players throughout the county which team had the best defense, the answer was always the same — Wahconah. Leading the way for the stingy Warrior defense this year was Gamberoni, who returned to the sport after sitting out her junior campaign. Gamberoni led a defense that gave up just 718 points on the year en route to a Western Mass. Division III semifinal appearance, and the senior leader was always tasked with guarding the best offensive players on the opposing teams. Throughout the year, she stifled the likes of Offensive Player of the Year Lexi Mercier, co-Player of the Year Gwendolyn Carpenter, and plenty of other big names. Throughout the team's 22 games, Wahconah gave up more than 40 points just six times — thanks in large part to Gamberoni's skills.
Coach of the Year
Ron Wojcik, Hoosac Valley
The veteran coach for the Hurricanes is no stranger to winning basketball games, but this year saw Wojcik reach the highest mountaintop in MIAA basketball — winning the state Division III championship. Hoosac's win over St. Mary's of Lynn in the state final helped get the proverbial money off of Wojcik's back, as the coach had seen his Hurricanes reach the championship game before, but never win it. This year's Hurricanes also shook off the ghosts of the 2017-18 season that saw the team's Western Mass. championship streak snapped. Wojcik pushed the limits on 3-point shooting this year, encouraging his players to chuck up as many shots as possible as the team tried to run and shoot opposing teams off the court. Hoosac went 21-4 this year and earned a share of the Berkshire North crown with Wahconah — which the team went 2-1 against, including a win in the Western Mass. D-III semifinals.
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